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. G8 Climate Meeting To Combat 'World's Greatest Challenge'

by Robin Millard
London (AFP) Oct 31, 2005
A meeting on climate change between the Group of Eight and emerging economic powers Tuesday will tackle the greatest challenge facing the world, its British hosts said, but environmentalists feared it would generate little more than hot air.

Energy and environment ministers from the G8 leading industrialised nations and their colleagues from such nations as China and India are to thrash out ways of developing sustainable clean energy sources and climate change strategy at the day-long meeting in London.

"It is imperative that we find new ways to cooperate and develop a shared understanding of how the world can respond to climate change," said British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, who will chair the 20-nation conference.

"There is no greater challenge facing the world," she said, adding that the London gathering would be a terrific opportunity to achieve progress.

But environmental groups feared it would simply produce frothy statements unless participants agreed concrete proposals for a forthcoming United Nations conference in Montreal.

The November 28 to December 9 meeting in the Canadian city will explore climate negotiations after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Kyoto treaty legally commits signatories to trim their output of six greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, by 2012 compared with 1990 levels. However, its impact has been limited by the United States opting out.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said Monday that Britain wants to see a consensus emerge from the G8 meeting on moving beyond the Kyoto framework.

Blair's key objective is to involve "not just the United States, but also India and China in agreeing how to develop sustainable energy supplies," the spokesman said.

Progress had been made by involving China, India and other emerging powers in the G8's climate negotiations, he said, adding that the aim now was "turning that progress into reality and about how we exchange energy technology".

Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace International's climate policy adviser, expressed concern that the gathering would produce empty promises rather than constructive proposals for Montreal.

"They should reiterate their commitments to Kyoto and emissions reductions and the carbon markets created by them," he told AFP.

However, he added, Blair's "completely transparent" remarks on Sunday about looking beyond Kyoto and finding consensus with the United States meant that was in doubt.

"It would be better if they sent unambiguous signals that they were committed to building on Kyoto rather than abandoning it and having a wonderful show of pandering to the US administration, which is what we all fear."

"Unless they're binding, hard commitments, it's just wishy-washy talk of voluntary partnerships and fluffy agreements."

The London meeting gathers those countries expected to consume the most energy in the coming 30 to 40 years.

Invited are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa. Iran has been asked to participate as well, but its attendance was in doubt after a row over remarks last week from Tehran threatening Israel.

The meeting was also to focus on energy and technology, looking at how to move to a low-carbon economy and how soon that goal can be reached.

Britain's Trade and Industry Minster Alan Johnson said that energy technology had a crucial role to play in addressing future climate and energy challenges.

The meeting was a chance "to take forward work on climate and energy, to build on existing work and increase dialogue and engagement with economies with significant energy needs including China and India," he said.

related report
Environmentalists Demand Solid Proposals From G8 Climate Meeting
by Robin Millard London (AFP) Oct 31, 2005 - Environmentalists were skeptical Monday that a Group of Eight meeting on climate change with emerging economic powers like Brazil, China and India can be a success without solid agreements on developing sustainable energy.

Energy and environment ministers from the G8 industrialised nations and their developing world colleagues are to thrash out ways of developing sustainable clean energy sources and climate change strategy.

But environmental groups fear the meeting in London will simply produce hot air unless ministers agree concrete proposals for a forthcoming United Nations conference in Montreal.

The November 28 to December 9 meeting in the Canadian city will explore climate negotiations after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Kyoto treaty legally commits signatories to trim their output of six greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, by 2012 compared with 1990 levels. However, its impact has been limited by the United States opting out.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said Monday that Britain wants to see a consensus come out of the London meeting on moving beyond the Kyoto framework from the G8 meeting.

Blair's key objective is to involve "not just the United States, but also India and China in agreeing how to develop sustainable energy supplies," the spokesman said.

Progress had been made by involving China, India and other emerging powers in the G8's climate negotiations, he said, adding that the aim now was "turning that progress into reality and about how we exchange energy technology."

Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace International's climate policy adviser, feared that the gathering in London would produce a round of empty promises rather than constructive proposals for Montreal.

"They should reiterate their commitments to Kyoto and emissions reductions and the carbon markets created by them," he told AFP.

However, he said, Blair's "completely transparent" remarks over the weekend on nations working together meant that was in doubt.

"It would be better if they sent unambiguous signals that they were committed to building on Kyoto rather than abandoning it and having a wonderful show of pandering to the US administration, which is what we all fear."

"Unless they're binding, hard commitments, it's just wishy-washy talk of voluntary partnerships and fluffy agreements."

Announced at the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in July, the London meeting gathers those countries expected to consume the most energy in the coming 30 to 40 years.

Invited are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa. Iran has been asked to participate as well, but its attendance was in doubt after a row over remarks last week from Tehran threatening Israel.

Writing in the Observer newspaper Sunday, Blair said: "We know climate change is a major threat. And worries over security of energy supply and rising oil prices are pushing energy policy to the top of the agenda.

"But we must understand that neither issue can realistically be dealt with unless the US, the EU, Russia, Japan, China and India work together," he added.

"We have to recognise that while the Kyoto Protocol takes us in the right direction, it is not enough. We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions radically but Kyoto doesn't even stabilise them. It won't work as intended, either, unless the US is part of it."

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